You Gonna Eat All That?

A fork in one hand, a pen in the other.

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Location: Virginia, United States

(Biscuit Girl)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

All she needs is a beer and the remote

Sophie likes my brother Richard as you can see. She just plopped herself up in his lap then flipped herself over on her back. He commented that all she needed was a beer (she likes Guinness) and the remote.

Can a dog get more adorable than this?
Be sure to hop on over to Sweetnicks on Sunday night to see more adorable hounds in this week's edition of Weekend Dog Blogging.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Pizza Tease

I mentioned in my last post that my brother Richard is flying up on Thursday. In addition to taking a cooking class together this weekend and eating at some of his favorite places, Jim is going to make his wonderfully delicious pizza.

And let it be known that siblings, no matter what age, can still taunt each other as if we were still kids.

Hey, Richard.....Look.....we made pizza last night......yeah that's right, just like the one you'll get to eat this weekend.......look at it.....doesn't it look good. Mmmmm It tasted wonderful with the fresh thinly sliced tomatoes, fresh basil and lots of ooey-gooey cheese......mmmmmm. neener neener neener....


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Morel goodness

I first ate morel mushrooms this year and asked myself why it took me so long to try them! I had them at Corduroy with the scallops. They're so good! And expensive.

Each time I go to the market and see them on sale for $40 per pound, I cringe. Not just for the price but for fear I'd not cook or use them to their best potential. I was hesitant to make it a costly experiment. Jim, however, was fearless.

After dropping me off at work yesterday, he headed to Wegmans. His main reason for going was to find something yummy to fix me for dinner that night. You see, I cooked dinner every night last week because his schedule was crazy. Usually it's a shared effort but not this week and he wanted to thank me for working so hard every night to cook. *Pause while everyone says "awwwww"*

The seafood department had several very tempting delights. He narrowed his options to the fresh Wahoo or the dry scallops. At $10 per pound the dry scallops were a deal so he picked up some of those. To quote him, "They were as big as a kittens head" and extremely delicious! He pan seared them then made a pan sauce with white wine, capers, lime juice and the remnants of the olive oil left in the pan. Sides of rosemary oven roasted potatoes and some garlic sauteed green beans rounded out the meal. Oh, and some fresh French bread to soak up the sauce. mmmmmmmm It was wonderful. The scallops were meaty, sweet and tender.
But back to the morels. While he was meandering around the store, he picked up some sirloin steaks, veal demi glace sauce and a pack of dried morel mushrooms among many other things. He was not only planning to fix me dinner Saturday night but tonight as well. Called me spoiled. The trade off works out like this.......5 nights of so - so dinners (Humble, ain't I?) for two slendidly prepared meals. I can handle that. He reconstituted the morels in a cup of boiling water. He let them sit for about 20 minutes then placed them and the water back into the pot and added some of the demi glace sauce. Then he cooked the liquid down to about half. After pan searing the steaks he served them with the morel mushroom sauce. A nice ear of corn each and a salad and we had dinner. We also had a nice bottle of Mulderbosch Faithful Hound.

The morels acted like little sponges, holding the sauce within their little selves. Each time you speared one with your fork a little sauce would squeeze out. And a nice slice of French bread stood by ready to sop it up. Poor Sophie sat on the floor looking up at me patiently waiting to lick the plate but unfortunately, I sopped everything up. We did have a treat for her though. While trimming the steak, Jim saved a few small bites of steak just for her. I cut them up in to teeny pieces and put them on my plate then set it down for her to enjoy. The plate was spotless in no time.

Tomorrow we're fixing pizza, a joint effort dinner. Then on Thursday my brother flies up from Knoxville, TN. He and I are going to take a cooking class at Galileo this Saturday. It's going to be a five course meal featuring lobster. We're gonna have a blast. And hopefully lots of pictures to post. Til then........

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Sunday, July 16, 2006

Chicken Tikka and Cheesecake

I decided to clean out the freezer today. Among the frozen stash were several packs of ground beef (good for a quick burger or mapo tofu), some frozen strawberries (margatira time!), 2 half used bags of edamame and lots of chicken.

After reorganizing most of the stuff, I pulled some of the chicken out to use for dinner. And as luck would have it, we had two small containers of plain yogurt in the fridge. I looked through a few recipes I had on hand and found one for Chicken Tikka.

I had all the ingredients so dinner was planned.
It was so easy to put together and I'm sure we'll make it again. The flavors were bright and well balanced and the chicken stayed juicy and tender. Next time I will make up some kind of yogurt sauce or spicy sauce to dip it in.

For dessert, cheese cake with fresh blueberry sauce.

Chicken Tikka
¾ teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted
2 cups whole-milk yogurt
6 garlic cloves, chopped

1 (1½”) piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 ½ teaspoons salt

¾ teaspoon ground turmeric

½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne
5 lb skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes

Purée all ingredients except chicken in a blender until spices are well ground.

Put chicken in a large bowl, or divide between 2 large sealable plastic bags, and add yogurt mixture, stirring or turning to coat. Marinate chicken, covered and chilled (turning occasionally if using bags), at least 4 hours. (You can marinate the chicken for up to 24 hours if you like)

You can skewer the chicken and grill it or use an iron skillet grill pan to cook the pieces individually. Heat turning over once, until browned in spots and just cooked through, 9 to 12 minutes total.

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Sunday, July 09, 2006

Homemade Pasta

I bought my Atlas Pasta Maker over 10 years ago and have hardly ever used it. Yes, it's sad...isn't it? I remember using it with my nephew when he was little. We made (or tried to) make ravioli. As I recall it didn't turn out so great but we had a good time anyway.

Flash forward about 10 years and the pasta maker is still with me. It's been sitting on my bakers rack patiently waiting for me. And it's wait was over today.

First I placed 2 cups of flour (all-purpose) on the counter and formed a well in the center.
And as you can see in this picture, Sophie is my Sous-Chef. Always standing by to lend a paw or clean up anything that hits the floor.
In the center of the flour well add two beaten eggs, 1 tbsp olive oil and 2 tbsp water to start.
Slowly begin to incorporate the flour with the wet ingredients. Once they are mixed fairly well, get in there with your hands and finish combining everything. If the dough is too dry, sprinkle some water on it a little at a time.

Form the dough into a ball , wrap it in plastic and place it in the fridge for at least an hour.
Once it's been chilled, you can begin to roll it through the pasta maker. I usually divide the dough into about three sections and work with one section at a time. Starting at the lowest number on the pasta maker, roll the dough through the press. Fold it in half and repeat. Do this about 3-4 times then turn the dial one notch to the next number and repeat.

Do this until you get to the desired thickness of your pasta.
Now it's time to cut the pasta. I chose the linguini setting. This in the one step that having an extra set of hands is needed. One hand to turn the crank, one hand to feed the pasta through the slicer and one to two hands to hold the pasta as it comes out of the slicer. Once it's been cut you can throw it into a pot of boiling water for about a minute or two. Or you can hang it up to dry for later use. This is what I opted to do. Right now I have metal skewers sticking out of my kitchen cabinets with strings of pasta drying. My neighbors may wonder what the heck I'm doing.
Once the pasta dries (I usually let it sit all day or overnight) you can put it in a plastic bag and store it in the fridge for up to three to four days before using it. But why wait that long.......we're having ours tomorrow night.

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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Soft Pretzels

While going through a bunch of old magazines, I stumbled across this recipe in Cooking Light for Soft Pretzels. I thought to myself, why not? After all I had some practice making pretzels a few years ago when we went on a trip to the Pennsylvania Amish area. We went up to Lititz, PA one afternoon to see the Wilbur Chocolate Factory - home of the Wilbur Bud. What's a Wilbur Bud? It's the forerunner to the Hershey Kiss and, in my opinion, much better.

While we were driving to Lititz, I looked at a brochure with info on the town and it mentioned the Sturgis Pretzel House, America's first pretzel factory. For $4 ($2 for kids) you can get a little tour of the historic building that was the factory is housed. Included in the tour and the history of the pretzel. Everyone get a piece of practice dough. The tour guide shows you how to roll it out and form a pretzel. We were thinking 'Cool, we get to make our own pretzels!' Wrong, once everyone's pretzels are made, you wad up the dough, toss it into a bucket where it sits for the next tour to come through. Ewww.......used pretzel dough. But the tour was kinda cool. They have brick ovens that cook the real pretzels and, of course, you can buy bags of them after the tour.

So here I am a few years later with this recipe in my hand. A quick scan of the ingredients needed shows that I have everything on hand so off to the kitchen! They were fairly easy to make. The first few came out a little cock-eyed but after that the technique became easier.
I was nervous about the water bath step. I've never tried that before and didn't know it my pretzels would fall apart when they hit the water. To my relief, they didn't and bathed away just like they were supposed to. (Hmm.....maybe I'll try my hand at bagels now that I don't fear the water bath). The recipe makes 12 pretzels which in our household lasted a few days. I stored them in a plastic bag which was a mistake because the salt melts after a few hours in the plastic. Maybe a paper would work better.

Soft Pretzels

1 package dry yeast
1½ tsp sugar
1 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
3¼ cups all-purpose flour, divided (about 14½ oz)
1 tsp salt
Cooking spray
6 cups water
2 tbsp baking soda
1 tsp cornmeal
1 tsp water
1 large egg
2 tsp kosher salt

Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water in a large bowl, and let stand for 5 minutes.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 3 cups flour and 1 teaspoon salt to yeast mixture; stir until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes). Add enough of remaining flour, 1 tbsp at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel slightly sticky).

Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 40 minutes or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425°. Divide dough into 12 equal portions. Working with one portion at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent drying), roll each portion into an 18” long rope with tapered ends. Cross one end of rope over the other to form a circle, leaving about 4” at end of each rope. Twist the rope at the base of the circle. Fold the ends over the circle and into a traditional pretzel shape, pinching gently to seal. Place pretzels on a baking sheet lightly coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise 10 minutes (pretzels will rise only slightly).

Combine 6 cups water and baking soda in a non-aluminum Dutch oven. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer. Gently lower 1 pretzel into simmering water mixture; cook 15 seconds. Turn pretzel with a slotted spatula; cook an additional 15 seconds. Transfer pretzel to a wire rack coated with cooking spray. Repeat procedure with remaining pretzels.

Place pretzels on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Combine 1 tsp water and egg in a small bowl, stirring with a fork until smooth. Brush a thin layer of egg mixture over pretzels; sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake at 425° for 12 minutes or until pretzels are deep golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

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Sunday, July 02, 2006

Weekend Dog Blogging #41

Run over to Sweetnicks later tonight to see the whole herd of hounds in the weekend's roundup of weekend dog blogging. Sophie posed for these pictures this week.
I moved one of her dog beds on top of a cedar chest next to my desk. Now she can jump up and sit next to me while I'm working on the computer. And as you can see, she finds it quite comfy.Plus she can look up at me while I type and I can reach over to give her a good belly rub.
Life is good.


Saturday, July 01, 2006

Abi's Restaurant - Review

We got home from grocery shopping last Saturday and as we walked in the door were still contimplating what to cook for dinner. We found our answer when we saw the answering machine blinking at us. It was our recently married friends J & A calling to say that even though it's last minute, would we like to go out to dinner with them. Well, no need to think any further. We called them back and talked about where we could go. J & A live in Rockville, MD and we've usually met them at Joe's Noodle House (Review one and Review two) when we get a Szechuan craving but tonight they wanted to come down our way. Our decision was to meet at Abi's. A very convenient decision for us as we can walk there from our place.

Located just across the street from the Huntington Metro (North Kings Hwy side), Abi's is in the space formerly occupied by the Cosmopolitan Restaurant (great Bosnian food but that's another post yet to be written). Back in the late winter/early spring both restaurants swapped places. Abi's, once a carry out joint was in a store front three places down from Cosmo. Now both have settled in nicely to their new digs. The only remnant from Cosmopolitan left in the new Abi's is a picture of somewhere in Bosnia that still hangs on the back wall as you walk to the restrooms.

When you arrive at your table, you get a basket of tortilla chips and a little cup of spicy salsa. The chips are very thin, which I like but they could use a little salt. The salsa is spicy and full of chopped tomato, and onion bits.Each couple ordered a cheese and loroco pupusa. It came with a bit of salvadoran slaw called curtido and a tomato based sauce. The pupusas at Abi's are very good. Lots of gooey cheese inside, sometimes with a little leaking out so you have a crunchy bit on the outside to nibble on. I top mine with some of the curtido and eat away. The cold vinegary bite and crunch from the curtido add a nice contrast to the hot gooey pupusa. I could make a meal of these and be perfectly happy. Biscuit rating: 3 biscuits

To me, the pupusa is the barometer of Salvadoran restaurants. You can tell how good the place is from their pupusas. We're lucky to have to Salvadoran places within walking distance to our house and both serve great pupusas (Pilar's is the other place). We've talked about having a pupusa comparison night with me bringing home pupusas from Abi's and Jim (aka Biscuit Boy) bringing some home from Pilar's. Then eating them side by side to see who's is better. Yes, it's a tough job, but we 're up for the challenge.

Anyway, back to Abi's. Our entree's included the whole Tilapia. Fried and nested on top of rice studded with corn, peas and chopped red pepper. A small salad accompanied the dish. The fish was very tasty if not the tiniest bit overcooked. Not so much so that there was nothing but a pile of bones left over. Biscuit rating: 2.5 biscuits (would have been higher if it was cooked just a little less done)

Next up was the Chicken Fajita's. A sizziling platter chock full of sliced chicken, onions and green peppers. A few warm tortilla's come safely tucked in foil on the side. From across the table the smelled wonderful and judging from the absolutely clean skillet afterwards, our friend J enjoyed them. Biscuit rating: 3 biscuits

Our next entree (selected by A) was the taco salad. A freshly made flour tortilla bowl brimming with chicken, beans, cheese, onions and topped with lettuce, tomato and sour cream. A could only manage to plow through about half of it before she had to push it back and declare defeat. The taco salad was too filling for her to finish. But it still got a thumbs up. Biscuit rating: 3 biscuits

Our final entree selection was the Plato Tipico (I think that's what it was, I forgot to write it down). A thinly sliced steak sitting on top the rice (same rice the fish was on) and topped with a slice of fried plantain. On the side, refried beans, lettuce and a wedge of avacado. This was my dish and I really enjoyed it. The plantain was slightly sweet and oddly good with the beef. My only complaint was biting into a small bit of bone with my first bite. Biscuit rating: 2.5 biscuits
Abi's is a great neighborhood place that I hope stays around. The service is friendly and relaxed so don't go if you're in a big hurry. Just sit back, sip on one of the many varieties of beer they have to offer, and watch the TV. There's usually a spanish language soap opera, talk show (think Jerry Springer in Spanish - it's a hoot) or a game show tuned into. No need to worry about language barriers..... these shows are all the same no matter what language they're in. And before you know it, your food arrives and it's time to eat.

Abi's Restaurant
5838-B North Kings Highway
Alexandria, VA 22303

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